The future of comics: print vs. digital

The future of comics: print vs. digital

Will the digital format turn print comics into a memory?

It’s a subject of great importance to many, though there is probably a fair share of people that see it as a non-issue - the rise of digital format in the comic book world.  This progress of technology is likely to spell the doom of the print media that we fans of comics have grown to know and love for most of our lives.  Some simple math proves that it is more cost-efficient to produce your comic digitally rather than deal with all the problems of production and distribution of a hard-copy.  But the question is, will this be a change for the better or worse?

I’d like to take a brief look at the advantages and disadvantages of switching over to digital media.  Some of it is fairly obvious, such as the reduced costs associated with production, but this obvious fact also gives rise to more access for independent comic labels.  Anyone who can write, draw and figure out the process to digitally publish will be able to get their comic out.  This is an amazing opportunity for readers to experience some fresh stories, stories that they never would have seen before.  It may not be the best for the giant comic book labels, as they will see their customer base filtering away to other things, but, seriously, they have enough money.

There is also the advantage of the new digital comics being much more portable.  This is probably one of the biggest points, seeing as how lugging around even a dozen comics can be quite the chore.  Of course, one needs the proper electronic device to view them, which can potentially cut a sizable section of people off from the stories they love.  Most people have computers, but not all, and lending a book to someone may not prove to be simple if they don’t have the required hardware.

The new format will also be cheaper to purchase.  In the long run at least.  For now they’re barely reduced from their hard-copy counterparts, but that’s all just part of the transitional process.  When the comic-book printing facilities shut down, the savings will be passed on to the customer.  Especially if there’s a lot more competition to contend with.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, will be the death of comic book shops.  Some people are still collectors, but comic shops will be relegated to providing old books from here on out.  Since their main profits arise from the weekly releases, most of them will end up out of business unless they get quick in diversifying their money stream.  No more hanging out down at the local comic store, chatting with friends and browsing the latest releases.  Of course, most people can just chat online these days anyways, right?  Who needs face-to-face social interaction?

It’s a love-hate subject for me.  I’d love to see what kinds of independent comics arise from the easier distribution, but I don’t want all my comics to be little more than ones and zeros on my tablet.  I like the crisp feel of a new book and the smell of the fresh ink.  The personal touch will be gone at the demand of convenience.  It’s sad, but most likely we are looking at the last decade of wide-spread print comics.  There will probably still be the opportunity for collectors to purchase the hard-copies, but the average reader will be browsing online to find new reads and viewing them with hand-held devices.

Goodbye, comics.  I will miss you.